justalilhype! X Paul Skratch

Interview by Alan Ng & Jenkin Au
Words by Jenkin Au
Photography by Jenkin Au

The justalilhype! Crew and Paul discusses about The HYPE of ALMIGHTY collaboration issue. The conversation behind the masterminds of this project not only goes in-depth to review each of our personal views about this project, but also our opinions about each other’s cultural influences. From initially meeting each other through an interview about the brand, to developing a strong relationship are all factors that have contributed to the creation to this project. One interview wasn’t nearly enough to cover Paul’s life, which was full of mysteries, insight, experience, and passion. The Almighty lifestyle was introduced to justalilhype! promptly but we knew there was a greater story behind all that so the collaboration issue was required for us to uncover the full story behind Almighty and seek questions that we have always wondered. Below is a conversation between Alan Ng, Jenkin Au, and Paul Belen about their respect and acknowledgement of each other and the development of their well-built relationships. They go in topic of discussion on how both sides have drawn and pulled inspirations from each other, how each of our establishments have created an impact throughout the scene, and furthermore, discuss personally on what meeting each other meant for us. The whole project, to an extent is an exhibition of our mutual respect to each other and our belief in the success that each side will be able to achieve in the future. The justalilhype! Crew goes on to further explain how they see Paul as being much more than a designer, artist, musician, but rather one that is going to create its own empire by continuing his own path to the utmost level of creativity and eventually become a cultural phenomenon. Paul explains what justalilhype! means to street culture in Vancouver, how it is becoming a bridge and the promising potential he sees within it. The Almighty concept created by Paul is a meaning that maybe only he can truly relate to, but it’s starting to spread through the masses and the justalilhype! Crew is proudly a part of his dream.

When did justalilhype! and Paul get in contact? How did you guys meet each other?

A: For us, I heard of Paul Skratch when I was with my friend. He’s a DJ and he learned from Relik. Back then, justalilhype! was at its early stages and he was talking about local brands and DJs with me. He pointed me out to Almighty and I did some research, went to Paul’s website and saw Paul and his designs. I fell in love with his Haters shirt instantly. Our network wasn’t as big to get in touch with people as easy as it is today so I went to El Kartel and talked to DJ Andrada and he told me he knew Paul. I think he was the one that really put both of us in contact.

P: DJ is still my partner with Almighty when it comes to designs. It’s just that he’s been really busy with El Kartel and other businesses. He’s actually the one that got me looking at making it more of a professional thing. That’s crazy because I didn’t know that’s how you guys found me.

A: Back then, it was also the time when you released your YouTube series, so it was difficult for us to really figure out where to put you in the magazine. It seems like even at that time, the whole concept of Almighty to us was much more than a clothing brand. If you looked back at that first interview we had together, we had questions all over the place. Questions about you DJing, and then questions about DMC, which wasn’t really related to your clothing at all. We talked about Star Wars as well. What were your thoughts about that interview?

P: First of all, you guys approaching me, that’s the biggest and first for me. I’ve never been approached as one person to even have anybody show interest on how I do things or who I am. It has always been because I was part of a band or a group or because I was in part of some project. Nobody has ever come up to me and said, “I want to focus on you for once and take time and sit with you, to figure you out.” I never had that ever. That was the biggest thing and I can care less who it is, or whether or not you guys were established – it didn’t matter. To me, it was that if people took the time and wanted to know about me, that’s a very big thing for me. Luckily, you guys are established and luckily you guys are doing something and luckily you guys have things going on, getting the interviews straight and photos straight – it’s a bonus if anything. Yeah, I agreed to do the interview and I wanted to do it up because I thought that could be the last chance I ever get interviewed and I am going to do it up huge, hence the mask, hence me talking about everything about me, not just Almighty.

A: It was really fun, just coming to the loft where you guys practiced. It was a fun interview but after the interview, we felt that it wasn’t enough.

J: From the get go, ever since that interview and just moving forward and seeing you here and there, we always knew there is so much to this guy, right? There was always something that we could never capture through one interview. At the same time, we also had our own belief. We didn’t want to double promote somebody in the magazine itself because it would be unfair to anybody else. When we first approached our collaboration issues, we thought that it would be a pretty good outlet to be able to feature people that are more multifaceted and those that have more to their lives than just that one aspect. After the first collabo issue, we started thinking about who else we could collaborate with to make an actual issue. The first person that came up to my mind was this guy, Paul Skratch, this hard working machine kind of dude that has so many different aspects in his life. It was an easy pick.

How did the relationship between Paul Skratch and justalilhype! develop over time?

A: After that interview, we saw Paul around. We saw him scratching at clubs, doing his thing at 1st Love and he was really prominent in the scene, everywhere.

J: Yeah, the first thing where we saw you afterwards was at the CVC Fashion Show.

P: Yeah, even from that, after linking up with you guys and just looking up on what you guys are doing, you guys have crazy web presence, you know? You guys are not just out online but you guys are actually at the spots. Yeah, just the CVC Fashion Show and also the Aaron Chan Academy show, you were there. Now, on Twitter, you guys are linked to every single person that I have dealt with or known. You guys are linked with everyone. Yeah, from that it goes to show that you guys are focused and hungry. That’s another reason why I wanted to collaborate, even though I am part of so much shit right now. Straight up, I see something promising with it. I think I would like to say it’s a gift by just talking to you guys and seeing what you guys have done. I can actually see what’s promising and what’s not promising. I can see you guys are headed to… you are destined for greatness, seriously.

A: Thanks. It means a lot to us when people fully appreciate what we are doing. I mean, yeah, after interviews, people would definitely spread the HYPE and they will share the magazine with their friends. But if someone truly understands us, they will it as a lot more than just a feature. For justalilhype!, we don’t want to be just like any other media, doing an interview and moving on. I think it’s also really important to relate with subjects because that’s really what life is about. Through that, we kept talking with you and not only were we inspired by your artwork, but we really felt that what you were doing is very creative. I really liked your work.

J: It was not just an admiration of your work but also an admiration of your work ethics as well, including your humbling attitude and everything.

A: I think the relationship between us was solid because you treated us as your friend. Back then, when we just started justalilhype!, you really treated us with a lot of respect. I am not saying other people don’t, but we really saw it in you more.

P: There’s a difference between using somebody as a tool and having that chemistry. From the get-go when I was talking with you guys, you guys are so passionate about it; so passionate about what you guys do and you love what you guys do. What I can relate with you guys is that you guys have this dream that you guys want to finish. I wanted to be surrounded by people like you guys. I want to be surrounded with people with the same work ethics or what not and to have that outlook in life. I mean yeah, there might be people out there that might use publication outlets as a tool, but I didn’t see it that way. Like I said, earlier, when you guys approached me the first time, that’s huge for me.

J: For us, the biggest thing for us is just somebody that is so established to treat us almost on par. Back then, I am pretty sure it was Issue #3 and we were really new and you still gave us that respect. It was a pretty good feeling. How do you both see each other’s direction and progress in the community? What do you think is the effect of each other’s presence throughout Vancouver?

P: Let’s talk about now. With now, you guys are the bridge to everything, from cultures to styles of music, to anything. You guys introduced this whole lifestyle to a different culture. You guys have introduced to people, your existing and new followers, to the stuff that you guys are seeing from you guys’ vision. “You know what? Because they like it, I am going to read it and listen to them or watch or try to watch their shows and buy their stuff.” It’s because of you guys that people are open-minded now. You guys are like the tastemakers of Vancouver right now. People look up to what you guys are bringing and who you guys have interviewed and what not. You guys know what’s up. As for the future, I really hope you guys do go into print. You guys are going to get printed for what you guys do. You guys are not just going to take over city wise, you guys are going to get Canada and whatever. It’s just one small step, getting into the bigger scene and it’s good. It’s very promising.

J: Paul has really helped the more of the older cats and the younger cats get to what they want to do. We were talking to Jolin, right? Even before he was able to go to the clubs, he looked you up. You actually helped him along and there was almost no incentive for you to help him along. There isn’t really an incentive for you to help any of these people but you still helped these people consistently, whether it’s you being the graphics guy or the tech support. You still helped these guys because you just wanted to help them. You are changing them. You are giving more hope to people to do well in the scene, you know?

A: Due to my own personal interest in the DJ scene of Vancouver in general, I really see Paul Skratch as one of the main originators of the scratching culture for Vancouver because there are many other scratch DJs and many of them are related to you in some way. But for you, you have always stuck to your love for turntablism from the start. That to me is very important because not many people can really stick to becoming solely turntablists. Many of them move on to other things such as production or club DJing, which is understandable, but you were always a turntablist.

J: Time is the biggest filter of all the weaker cats. No matter what, time is always going to dictate or help prove the stronger guys. The stronger people will always be there at the end and throughout this past 16 years, you have been involved with it – you are still sticking to it.

A: A lot of times people get featured not only because of their skills but also because of how we really see them as people. Often times, we see that they have much greater capabilities and talents then they are labeled as. This is why you get people that are never interviewed on our magazine. Maybe it’s because we are in Vancouver but that’s not the only thing. People really are dedicated but sometimes, they don’t get all the talk that they deserve. We really see that Paul Skratch is one of the most underrated artists in our city and we really want to be behind you in pushing and promoting your work and help you to truly express what you were brought up to express. We see that inside of you, and it’s not just through your music or art, but it’s also your life that’s really inspiring.

P: The thing is, you guys are already part of my life story because you guys actually took the time to listen. I mean, like you said about getting attention, most of the times I do try to get attention. I am doing it in a way that is not being cocky. There’s a difference between being cocky and confident. The only time when I would step up to gain attention is when I have something to prove it and I have shit to back it up.

J: It’s pretty different because just talking a look at the distinction between two different types of artists; there are the types of artists that would never change their style because they want to be recognized for that kind of style. Then there is this type of artist that will change to whatever is needed to that kind of style. For example, a company is hiring some sort of director or photographer. He can change to whatever style that the company needs. You have told us that and we’ve seen that through your DJ gigs, designs, and all the graphics that you have done for people. You won’t stick to just one style but you have your own preference. When you are working with somebody else, you’ll do what he or she actually needs you to do. That says a lot about your personality. It’s no longer about saying: “Hey, look at me.” You are saying: “I have something, let me help you. Let’s work together and get the message across.” It’s no longer about being cocky or egotistical, but confident and understanding.

A: Not only are we inspired by everything you do, but we also see the future for you. We really do think you will be the next NIGO of Vancouver because of all these different creative outlets that you have chosen to express yourselves from. You are not just going to become a notable DJ, but more of an innovator throughout all aspects, whether it’s turntablism, design or what not because you have been sticking to yourself since the start.

J: Having said all that, it’s not all praise. Because you have been so involved with so many different projects, we do see a procrastinator side of you. Within everybody is going to be a procrastinator, even ourselves. With so many different projects, it’s important to be on top of every single one of them. Hopefully this collaboration issue can keep that agenda on top.

P: Let me tell you the truth – because of this, it’s been a wakeup call. If these guys have been taking their time and their effort , focusing on this one thing, I can’t let you guys down. It’s not just for myself anymore. It’s for other people too. Because of this, I got to finish “I Dream In Color”. I have to finish the tracks that I want to contribute to. I need to be able to do the shirts that I want to do. It’s going to happen. This summer is going to drop. Everything is going to drop because of this. If you guys didn’t want to do this collaboration, I think I would have chilled out for a bit again, for real.

What do you want to achieve through this collaboration issue?

A: I think for myself, not only do I really want to know about the whole story behind Paul Skratch and Paul Belen but a lot of times in life, you can’t really just see the surface of things. Creativity doesn’t just spark from one area in life. Because of these outlets that Paul has tapped into, we saw that there was a much larger and greater story behind it. That’s the reason why we really want people to know about Paul’s life.

J: Going back to one of your motto, it’s really “Dream, Create, and Believe.” Dreaming, you are thinking about it and envisioning what you want to do. Creating it, you are seeing it physically. Then believing, there’s only so much that you can really see. There’s so much that you can’t see all at once. As long as you believe it, you can understand that it’s a bigger deal and from that you will understand.

P: You guys are going to make me cry.

(Everyone laughs.)

P: Let me help you guys, because you guys are helping me – that’s the biggest thing. You guys are putting down your talents and creativity to this, as well as your work ethics. Let me do this with mine. Whatever I have in front of me, or whatever I am putting on to the table, let’s do this. If you guys have a direction, let’s both reach it together. Give me all your best and I will give you all my best. Let’s try to make something out of it.

Through this collective relationship whether personal or business related, what else has it led to?

A: I think through reviewing his designs prior to his Almighty Brand interview, I really got back to my love for space and turntablism. Paul really captures that essence well. The “Dream, Create, Believe” motto that he holds, the dreaming aspect really hits me. I feel largely attached to it. Things will happen in front of my head when I dream and actually it could really happen. It’s really abstract but I can relate to that motto. Things I dream about, I can make it happen.

J: For me, I think it’s just getting back to base to my love for hip-hop, more on the scratching side. The toughest time in school was this most recent semester. It was really difficult for me and I was working all the time. I would actually play the whole session from “Goons from the Moon” and it would keep going on and on. I couldn’t watch somebody do it, and when people scratches, there are so many different sounds. For yours, it’s more consistent. Everything that you like was almost all the same kind of deal. For myself, I’ve got back in touch with that – scratching music and general hip-hop.

A: And we can also never see Star Wars the same ever again. We would always relate it with you.

J: Yeah man!

P: For me. It’s your guy’s work ethics. Your work ethics are ridiculous. You guys are hungry guys. I am so much older and I have been in the industry for so much longer than you guys have been. You guys saying you guys have been around for a couple years but your couple years are equivalent to my 10 years. You guys reached out to the people you guys wanted to reach out. It took me so many years to reach out to those people, you know? Not only to work with but even just to talk to. I don’t have the balls to go up to talk to somebody if I don’t know them. It’s your passion. It’s inspiring. Get up and do it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what so and so is doing but if you are interested in it, go talk to them. Go do it. If any lesson from what I learnt from just collaborating with you guys is almost like a wake up call. These guys have been doing it and they have only been doing it for less than 3 years. You guys know what you guys are doing and it took me so many years for me to figure out what I want to do. You guys are inspiring. Not just only to me, but I know a lot of other people that talk to me about you guys – “Hey! Who are these two guys? What are they doing?” They know what you guys are doing but they wondered who you guys were. I would go like, “Dude, they are the next shit. They are hungry. They know what they want to do. They are focused. And they are reaching out to the right people without trying to ask other people about it. They know. These guys have their ears on the ground. They know what’s going on the streets. And trust me, work with these guys. Good shit will happen.” And that’s what I keep telling people and they do it, from reading you guys’ stuff and looking at who you guys have been talking to. It is all the people that I wanted to read about. It’s good.

A: One thing to me is that Paul has been an inspiring figure and been someone I look up to. You see, he is always working and it’s also to a point that we are fortunate kids. To be able to start this justalilhype! is not just because it was something we always wanted to do. It was also because we have the basic fundamentals needs in life to have the time to do this. After listening to your whole life story…

J: We have a long way to go.

A: And despite the fact that we know we work hard, we can still push it. It’s just the start. For someone like you to be in the scene, we see that we are in completely different situations. You have much more things to worry about, especially with your future family and what not. You have been through a whole lot more.

J: You made it in the scene. One of the hardest thing about the scene is being able to make it and not necessarily be super famous or anything, but to be able provide, you  know?

P: It’s a struggle. You always have to constantly think about what you got to do in life. How am I going to eat next week? It’s something that some people strive to do. For me, one of the reasons why I do so many things is because this is what’s necessary in order for me to function, in order to eat and in order to have a place to live at. That’s what I have to do. I am not saying to put all your eggs in different baskets or don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I am not saying that if you are going to do something, concentrate, don’t just talk about it.

A: One other thing is that Paul never tries to become someone he is not. He sets his own trends and follows himself. You just do it and it’s the same for us. When we were still teenagers, we got affected by things because we were still growing. It’s good to know there are people out there that stick to what they truly love. Right now, we just do shit our own way. We never really care of what people think of us.

J: I was probably one of the most impressionable people ever. If some cool guy told me about something, I just might go do it. That’s just the way I was. I was a floater.

P: You were a floater? That’s good for you man. When I was growing up, it was all about fitting in. If you were trying to be something else, you were a weirdo. That’s what people use to think.

A: It also seemed that we were all somewhat alienated from the world.

J: I had no straight friend group. It was always one group here and there. I don’t know, I was like a floating alien.

P: I was the same way in high school. I had the core guys I hung with but I hung out with the nerds and geeks in the library. I hung out with them because they were into comics. But then some of the jocks I use to hang out with, they would ask, “Why you hanging out with those guys?”  I hung with the band geeks. I love live instruments. I think back then, it was all about being apart of a crew. I don’t know, I think you guys are telling me wrong. I just think nowadays kids are being individuals. Be you right away, other than trying to be someone else. For me, for the longest time I was trying to fit in. But deep inside, I wanted to be myself. When I did be me, that was when people starting noticing and when people started talking shit. That’s when people started talking about me and I felt that in my bitter end of high school. During grade eight, going to high school was cool because you could become anyone that you want. The only people that knew you were the elementary kids that knew you from before. The awesome thing about it was that I went into high school without having any friends so I created my own persona then. I tried to be like everybody. I was in the student council. I was in grade eight and people voted for me to be their rep. I was cool with every single person but then when grade 10 came, I became myself and people didn’t like me. I like to hanging out with the geeks. I liked playing basketball and listen to hip hop. I just had my own style and that’s why people started talking shit. I had a different focus. Everybody was about sports and cars at that time, but I was into music. This is my biggest advice. Be you. That’s the cool thing about you guys. Be you, man. There’s always a person out there that is going to be able to relate to what you do. That’s the whole thing about me. The whole Almighty shit, I am going to do me. Somebody is going to see.